What would RTH do?

That is the question.

If I were in a highschool yearbook, they would vote me most likely to die of a lynch mob. That does not prevent me from opening my mouth and serving a warm hearty cup of STFU to people who deserve it. My dark scathing humor will leave no matter of existence untouched. My innocence will touch your soul.

Welcome to a warped world turned inside out and upside down. All sorts of discretion advised.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Susegaado

Last night as I was surfing the Internet to find the music videos to my favorite happy songs, I discovered a gorgeous musical gem. I can't believe I had been oblivious to this song for so long. It is "Susegaado" from the MTV India show "Sound Trippin". Now "Sound Trippin" is a unique show with a lovely concept. The host Sneha Khanwalkar, one of India's youngest music explores a new place in India to discover "sounds" that capture the spirit of the place. Her quirky musicality, rustic style and daring to experiment with unusual and unconventional sounds and rhythms results in a sensational song and music video. This is what Music Television should be about, not dumb rich teens blowing their parent's money or celebrities going jack shit crazy.

 

Link: http://mtv.in.com/soundtrippin/videos/susegaado-full-song-episode-4-intel-mtv-sound-trippin-8575-1.html (As player fails to initialize sometimes)

Even though I was born and brought up in Bombay, my ethnicity is Goan. My family roots are in Loutolim, a small village in ancestral Goa. My aunt married into a full blooded Goan family. Our family deity is Ramnathi in Goa. When I was not living my usual life in Bombay, majority of my time was spent in Goa with my aunt and cousins. So I've always had a fond association with Goa. It is not just my ethnicity and heritage, but runs in my blood and veins. I'm proud of that heritage.

That is why "Susegaado" delights me so much. It captures everything that I know and love about Goa. I can't believe that someone was able to go out there and find these "sounds" that represent Goa. Sneha has done an incredible job. The melody is soulful, laid back and lilting that perfectly embodies the title "Susegaado". It is a Konkani word with Portuguese roots that represents the quiet, laid back and totally chilled out attitude in Goa. Life in Goa moves at a snail's pace so you can savor every blessed moment. After the hectic grind of Bombay, I always looked forward to being "Susegaado" in Goa. Goans are not lazy, they just have the right attitude in life - a calm outlook towards everything. I'd say the rest of the world needs an attitude adjustment and learn from the Goans.

The lush green landscape of Goa is dotted with tiny townships with quirky names like Paolim, Loutolim, Siolim, Cortolim, Curtorim, Talaulim, Benaulim and dozens other "lims". Each town has its own unique character. Not many people notice this precious little detail or gives it much thought. How marvelous of someone to pay attention to this little detail and somehow capture these small towns that often get lost in the Panaji, Ponda and Vasco? And of course the veritable destination Dona Paula.

Another totally unique aspect of Goa, which I have fallen in love with is the Latin influence. Goa was a Portuguese colony for the longest time. It was not until 1961 that India actually annexed Goa from the Portuguese. The Latin influence is what makes Goa such a unique holiday destination. You can still be in India, but once you enter Goa, you are transported to Rio De Janerio, New Orleans or the Spanish coastline. But unlike those places Goa is a lot more affordable and accessible. Like Rio and many other Latin townships Goa also celebrates Carnival in January. Portuguese conversion has left behind a huge Catholic population in Goa, higher than most other states. These Latin and Catholic influences are there everywhere in Goa - the Portuguese style architecture, the many beautiful little churches across the landscape, Catholic insignia in stores and neighborhoods, the salsa and bossa nova inspired music, the foods like Xacutti, Sorpotel and Bebinca, the Catholic bakeries, the Portuguese words in the language and so much more. The song captures this historic Latin and Catholic influence that gives Goa its character.

Finally Goa is a the holiday destination in India. Its affordability makes it the holiday destination for many people in the world. As part of the hippie trail, it continues to grow as a popular party destination. The western ghats are a world biodiversity hot spot. Goa's history of sustaining its natural beauty and ecosystem makes it a hit with green travelers. The tourist side of Goa is associated with fishermen, beaches and drinking. And drinking entails reverend references to the local hard liquor feni. And of course all that paints a delightful picture of lazy days laying on a beach under the palm tree sipping your coconut. The song represents this aspect as well and rightly so. After all what is Goa without its tourist nature.

I love the song so much that I was shocked to read some of the negativity and criticism people were throwing at it. My family in the states, in Mumbai and in Goa will most definitely love the song. I cannot not believe that some Goans are being so childish and whiny about the song. The points of contention are the use of Catholic names in the song, the portrayal of the Catholic influences, the depiction of the tourist stereotypes and all the usual immature whining. It is heartbreaking to see people complaining and sowing discontent instead of the vibrant joy and cultural identity the song is supposed to evoke. I've been trying to understand why people are so bitter and negative towards something positive, and have come up with three key reasons why some Indians simply cannot be happy.

1) A blind rejection of all things colonial: There is a very small but increasingly influential and vocal population in India that is obsessively nationalist that wants to reject and discard everything colonial. I think it is the result of being a young nation, still growing, still on the way to true enduring maturity. The colonial rule represents everything that is wrong and evil in this world. It evokes imagery of shackles, slavery and subordination. People view it as an era where we lost our freedom, dignity, society and culture. There is a growing movement to erase everything colonial from our lives. You see that with the name of Bombay changing to Mumbai, the renaming of a Gothic landmark Victoria Terminus to a completely anomalous name like Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus. Anything remotely modern or western influences is perceived as a rejection of being Indian to embrace something foreign. It is severely frowned upon. There was a time Goa was immune to such sentiments and embraced the Portuguese influences with pride. I remember my uncle talking fondly of village wedding feasts a uniquely Latin influenced Goan tradition with a lot of pride in their adopted culture. But now with growing Maharashtrian influence, especially the likes of Shiv Sena even the susegaado Goans are succumbing to these sentiments.

What the hard core nationalists often fail to realize is that colonization had positive influences as well. Our education system, the abolition of social evils like sati and caste system were due to colonial missionaries. The railway network, the highway system, the core of our infrastructure originated with our colonial rulers. They did leave back some good.

We are Hindus, and our ancestors had to flee Catholic persecution. Our kuldevta Ramnathi had to be moved from Salcette to its current location to prevent destruction at the hands of the Portuguese. The Portuguese tried to stamp out my language Konkani. We know that colonialists were often unfair and cruel. Yet we harbor no ill will or hatred. They did add something beautiful to Goa that we appreciate. I was taught to study history, understand historic change over time, learn from it and embrace the good in it. As a child I not only learned our original Konkani but happily learned the Portuguese influenced Goan dialect with its unique enunciations, pronunciations, words, tone and speed. While we worshiped at Ramnathi and made special offerings, we also visited St. Francis Xavier church in Old Goa and awed over its architecture and history. As a child I loved Portuguese Goa because the buildings, places, styles were so unlike anything else in India. I think we ought to embrace the Portuguese stamp on our culture rather than try and eradicate it.

2) The majority wants to be the center of attention: Any immigrant to the United States will tell you, one of the most difficult and irking thing to deal with is the white America insisting on a sociocultural identity of a "white" in America. Whenever a minority population influences the sociocultural flavor of United States, whenever a minority is given status and recognition the white American population complains about being sidelined or ignored. Whenever a place starts to gain an Hispanic, Arabic or Asian flavor white America makes insists on pointing out that they are still the majority. When you point out that the America of the future might be bilingual with Spanish, they insist on the white English United States. When you point out that the religious diversity of America is growing, they insist on the notion of white Christian United States. Focus on any minority the Hispanics, the homosexuals, the blacks, the Indians, the Asians, the Native Americans - white America is jumping up and down "me, me, me, me, 80% of the people is me, me, me, please see me, me, me, talk about me, me, me, this country is about, me, me, me"

Hindu Goans suffer from this same white American syndrome. We Hindus have a tremendous majority in the rest of the United States. Our dominance as religion and society often sidelines the other ethnic minorities in the country. Even though Goa has roughly a 25% Catholic population, it is one of the few states where an ethnic minority has made such an indelible and distinct stamp on society and culture. So influential is the Catholic minority in Goa that movies on Goa center around them, tourism in Goa centers around them, it is their food, their culture, their language, their lifestyle that evokes attention and curiosity.

This is abrasive to the Hindus who are the majority with over 60% of the population. The rest of India is about Hindu history and culture, our language, our religion, our food, our lifestyle, our traditions that the thought of a minority getting attention makes us jealous. When Goa is portrayed as Gonsalves, Da Cunha, Da Costa, Almeida, Miranda, Hindus suffer the same insecurity that Richard, Paul and Mark do in front of Ricardo, Paulo and Marco. The Hindu Goan is always vying for attention - trying to tell the tourists, the historians, the music video makers that they are there, they were there first, that they are the majority and they want to be recognized. How dare a minority ever gain equitable status in a democratic country?

As a child, I never developed the obsession with my religion. I never found the need to tote my majority status or the superiority of being a Brahmin. Other people in my community did, but my silly childhood naivety never understood it. I really liked the Gonsalves, Da Cunha, Da Costa, Almeida, Mirandas etc. of Goa. It was so unique, so different. In a sense I was sick of temples and amchi gali food. I relished the idea of churches being important and Catholic inspired food and culture.

Now as an immigrant in a foreign country, I empathize with the need for minorities to gain recognition and have their own input and stamp in the culture. I maybe a minority, but I'm equally American as the next person. My cultural history and heritage brings something unique to America. Recognizing my roots and influence does not diminish American culture but adds to it. Just because they are the majority White America does not own the nation and is not entitled to get front page all the time. So there is no way I'm going to insist that Hindu Goa get special attention or try to diminish the recognition Catholicism and Catholic culture gets in Goa.

3) Stereotype aversion: This is not an Indian problem, but a global problem. Stereotypes have developed a very ugly, unsavory and negative connotation. Yes, sweeping generalizations are often false. But stereotypes serve as a way to simplify something that is too complex or diverse to digest. Not all stereotypes are negative. Many are positive and capture the salient features of a population. New York, Bombay are associated with hustle and bustle, crowds and urbane views. Switzerland is known to be green and peaceful, Paris and Venice are known to be beautiful and romantic. These are all positive stereotypes. Sometimes it is neutral at best. Italians and Pasta, Japanese and anime. Mexico with chiles, India with curries. The only ones we really need to worry about is the negative ones - all Mexicans are illegal immigrants, all Italians are mobsters etc.

Here in Wisconsin, we are called America's dairyland. The state is personified by dairy farmers. People in the USA view the state as full of simple minded hicks and farmers who are all about beer, brats and cheese. The term cheesehead was even coined to be disparaging of Wisconsin which produced copious amounts of cheese. Wisconsin is more than farmers, beer, brats and cheese. It houses one of America's top universities, is the pioneer in medical research and has a highly educated and intelligent population. There are huge urban areas with a lot of high tech and financial industries. The cuisine here is a diverse melting point. For a tiny state you can have a culinary journey through Europe and the world. But we are not offended with the stereotypes - we embrace it. We Wisconsites proudly wear our cheesehead hats taking pride in our cheese. We don't mind being known for beer, brats and cheese - it is the definition of a good time and our gift to the world. Wisconsin is also known for drinking and partying. But so proud are we of our cultural stereotypes that we embraced it with the whole Sconnie movement.

So should it be for Goa. Our Goan stereotypes are positive. Beaches, fishing, chilling and partying - you cannot go wrong with that imagery. Of course there is a lot more to Goa than that. There is a diverse population engaged in diverse occupations. Only someone dumb as a door knob would think that everyone in Goa lives in a fishing village, catches fish for a living and drinks themselves into a stupor to sleep every night. People know that stereotypes are wrong and places are diverse. That is implicit knowledge. And if people don't understand that, don't bother with them, even God didn't care to bless them with intelligence. Embrace the stereotypes. It is what makes Goa beautiful and unique. It is Goa's gift to the world. The world is blessed by our laid back lifestyles, our pristine beaches and our fondness for strong alcohol. Rather than complaining about it like some whiny ass child, we should make giant Feni hats and take pride in being "Fly like a Goan". Your home is Paradise, you should be happy and proud about it - not become a miserable wanker over it.

But now that we are done, let me end on a positive note. Here is another composition by Shenha Khanwalkar from Sound Trippin. This song captures the cultural notes of Yellapur in Northern Karnataka - a unique rural culture that is a confluence of many cultures. Yellapur is home to the Siddhis who are actually an African tribe that has immigrated to India and made the forests here as their home.

 

Link: http://mtv.in.com/soundtrippin/videos/yere-full-song-episode-3-intel-mtv-sound-trippin-8359-1.html (As player fails to initialize sometimes)

Damn! I love this style of making music. I'm in love with these songs and the idea behind them. Sneha Khanwalkar - marry me. Three things on my bucket list (if God willing) are road tripping the Old Grand Trunk Road, Historic Route 66 and rediscovering the old Silk Route. We could go on a road trip together. I'll be the driver and the history dork who rambles about people, places and events long lost in the sands of time. You can be the passenger and the cool contemporary composer who turns that dorkiness into sweet music.

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